White House advances tribal water rights rule

By Miranda Willson | 04/24/2024 03:47 PM EDT

The rule would ensure that tribes’ rights to fish, hunt and gather near aquatic resources are accounted for in state and federal water quality standards.

Kelsey Burns and Joey Riley harvest wild rice in Steamboat Bay on Leech Lake in Minnesota.

Kelsey Burns and Joey Riley harvest wild rice with fellow Leech Lake Tribal College members in Steamboat Bay on Leech Lake in Minnesota on Sept. 12, 2022. Jessie Wardarski/AP

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

The Biden administration advanced a policy this week that aims to ensure cleaner water for tribes and protect their rights to resources like fish and aquatic plants.

The EPA rule would require states and the federal government to account for tribal reserved rights when setting water quality goals and pollution limits for rivers, lakes and streams.


Proposed in November 2022, the rule seeks to ensure that tribes can safely consume fish, aquatic plants, wild rice and other resources that they have a right to hunt and gather through treaties or other federal laws. Tribes have generally praised the rule as necessary to ensure they can maintain long-standing traditions and practices such as fishing, hunting and harvesting plants that depend on freshwater resources.